SERENDIPITY-----UNSEEN TREASURE IN PLAIN SIGHT

Friday, December 05, 2014


Wilbur M. Smith was one of my favorite professors at Fuller Seminary in Pasadena, California.

He had a library of 25,000 books. He always looked upon his library as a workshop.

When he walked into the classroom he would be carrying a stack of books. He would plop them down on the speaker's stand and then he would begin talking. And for the next hour I was held spellbound.
Early on in my education I had attended a class on the Old Testament. It put me to sleep! Wilbur Smith brought the Old Testament to life. I would run out of his class and drive straight to my little office at the church building and begin preparing a sermon. I couldn't wait to preach. I was on fire for God.

I decided I had to have many of the books Smith had in his library and talked about. I never had a goal of 25,000 but I did line my shelves with many good books. When I retired from full time preaching I disposed of fifteen cases of books. But I retained many volumes. On one wall in our family room is a built-in bookcase full of books. In my office closet, one wall of shelves is full and there are two other bookcases in there. Out in the office there are four bookcases full of books and books stacked on my study desk and my computer desk and on a stand by my reading chair.

Now, since the only messages I deliver are funeral messages I am slowly beginning to get rid of books I no longer need. I am doing so with mixed emotions. I am a little sad to see the valuable books go but I am making wonderful discoveries. I am discovering all over again great articles on vital topics. I not only have many hard back volumes but stacks of magazines that contain outstanding writing on every theological subject imaginable.

Just yesterday I picked up a magazine thinking that I would toss it and ended up reading and studying the articles for over an hour. Serendipity!

Another magazine that was on its way out the door has inspired some thoughts that I will be posting on my blog soon. The thoughts come from a sermon that William Willimon wrote for Pulpit Resource. I smiled when I read anew this message that I first read back in 1997. I thought to myself, "This is good stuff." Serendipity!

So I go on sorting through books and magazines. I do so no longer dreading the work. I do so with eager anticipation. I'm finding treasures that have been "buried" far too long.

THE LIFE-CHANGING MAGIC OF TIDYING UP


THE LIFE-CHANGING MAGIC OF TIDYING UP
The Japanese Art of Decluttering And Organizing
By Marie Kondo

OVERVIEW: Japanese cleaning consultant Marie Kondo takes tidying to a whole new level, promising that if you properly simplify and organize your home once, you'll never have to do it again. Most methods advocate a room-by-room or little-by-little approach, which doom you to pick away at your piles of stuff forever. The KonMari Method, with its revolutionary category-by-category system, leads to lasting results. In fact, none of Kondo's clients have lapsed (and she still has a three-month waiting list). With detailed  guidance for determining which items in your house "spark joy" (and which don't), this international bestseller featuring Tokyo's newest lifestyle phenomenon will help you clear your clutter and enjoy the unique magic of a tidy home―and the calm, motivated mindset it can inspire.

AUTHOR: Marie "KonMari" Kondo runs an acclaimed consulting business in Tokyo helping clients transform their cluttered homes into spaces of serenity and inspiration. With a three-month waiting list, her KonMari Method of decluttering and organizing has become an international phenomenon. The Life-Changing Magic of tidying Up is a best seller in Japan, Germany, and the UK, with more than two million copes sold worldwide, and has been turned into a television drama for Japanese TV. She has been featured on more than thirty major Japanese television and radio programs and in the London times, the Sunday Times, Red magazine, and You magazine, among others.

MY REVIEW: Many books on decluttering have been written. And I have read most of them. This one is the best! That's not to say that I agree with everything Kondo has to say on the subject. But I do agree with almost all of it and I think this is a great book.

When I first saw the title I wasn't sure how I was going to feel about the book. Tidying up is a term I am familiar with but not one that I use very often. And I wasn't too sure about the Japanese art of decluttering because I really didn't know anything about it. Even now, I'm not sure if Kondo is really describing a method that can be described as a Japanese method or if it is just her method and she happens to be Japanese. It doesn't matter either way. This is a book that you need to read if you are interested in decluttering.

Kondo had my attention from the first chapter or section, Why can't I keep my house in order? to the last, The magic of tidying dramatically transforms your life. If you are seriously interested in this subject, you will not want to put the book down. Marie Kondo makes the claim that she is showing how to put your space in order in a way that will change your life forever. Is that true? Maybe! Yes, I think it just might be.

(I received this book from Blogging For Books in exchange for a fair and honest review.)

VANISHING GRACE

Thursday, November 20, 2014


VANISHING GRACE
What Ever Happened To The Good News
By Phillip Yancey

OVERVIEW: In his landmark book What's So Amazing about Grace?, Phillip Yancey issued a call for Christians to be as grace-filled in their behavior as they are in declaring their beliefs. He now returns to this vital subject, asking why Christians continue to lose respect, influence, and reputation in our modern culture. Yet people everywhere still thirst for grace. How can Christians present truly Good News amid the changing landscapes of our time? Why do so many people dislike Christians? How can we communicate faith in an appealing way to future generations? Using his trademark journalistic style―story-filled, compelling, accessible―Yancy explores how grace can bridge the gap between Christian faith and a world increasingly suspicious of it.

AUTHOR: Philip Yancey serves as editor-at-large for Christianity Today magazine. He has written thirteen Gold Medallion Award-winning books and won ECPA Book of the Year awards for What's So Amazing About Grace? and  The Jesus I Never Knew. Four of his books have sold over one million copies. Yancey lives with his wife in Colorado.

MY REVIEW: I agree with Max Lucado who said, "Every Philip Yancey book is worth reading. He is a gift to our generation." This book is one of his best. I also agree with Shane Claiborne who wrote, "There's not much I'd rather read about than grace. And there's no one I' rather have tell me about it than Philip Yancey."

In this book Yancey does a splendid job of telling why the church stirs up negative feelings and then he counters the bad news. He spends much of his time relating stories about how too many Christians make bad news out of the good news. And then he tells stories and gives many examples of how Christians can and are making a positive, grace-filled difference in a world of desperate need.

This is an important book that every Christian needs to read. Yancey does a good job of helping us to see what the world would look like if Christians fulfilled the command to "See to it that no one misses the grace of God."

(I received this book from the Booklook program in exchange for a fair and honest review.)

HOW MUCH PRAYER SHOULD A HAMBURGER GET?

Thursday, November 06, 2014


How Much Prayer Should A Hamburger Get? is the title of an excellent little book of articles on prayer compiled by William J. Krutza and the title of an article in the book written by Eliot J. Carey.

I received the book years ago from friends who wrote these words inside the cover: "Clif, I know you like to read. We enjoyed this so thought we'd get you a copy, hope you enjoy it too. In Christian love, The Overturfs, P.S. Thanks for your terrific lessons!"

I'm going to quote several passages from Carey's article that express how I also feel about saying grace every time we open our mouths for food.

"Saying grace every time we open our mouths for food is a ritual that needs clarification. I know some people who consider it virtually a denial of the faith if they fail to bow their heads and mumble a few words before eating, whether in private, in public, or in the home of a friend."

"Ritualism in saying grace confronts us with all kinds of problems. Obviously we do not pray over all forms of sustenance, else we have sinned at the water cooler and the kitchen tap for years. Nothing is more essential to the body than water---unless it be air, and you can see the problem that raises---but I know of no one, however devout he may be, who prays at the drinking fountain in the park. We also have confession to make over a sizable backlog of Lifesavers, breath mints, salted peanuts, and licorice allsorts, all of which contain frightening amounts of nourishment."

"So we are faced with the problem of classification. Does food rate grace because of its quantity? Or its price? Or the time of day when it is eaten? If one eats a doughnut with coffee at 10:00 A.M. without grace, is one obliged to pray over a sandwich and coffee at noon? If the sandwich is classified as lunch, it requires prayer, because surely one must give thanks for one's meal."

I find the Bible is strangely silent on the topic of saying grace. There is no instruction that I know of for saying grace. I consider the Lord's Supper and Christ's prayer before feeding the multitudes highly special occasions. I do believe the Bible teaches us to always be in the spirit of prayer and I am. I am gratefull for many things and tell God so. Food is one of those things and I thank God for it often---but not just when I am eating. I believe that praying before meals is a good thing but should not be done as a ritual.

I have a copy of Norman Rockwell's painting, in which the old lady and the young child bow their heads and fold their hands in the diner. totally and completely unaware of the glances of onlookers, they say their grace in unaffected sincerity. This is a picture of two people saying in their hearts, "Thank you, God, for everything." With that kind of public grace there can be no fault. But if I feel compelled to do it because others expect it and are looking, then I might need to consider my motive.

RARE BIRD

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

RARE BIRD
A Memoir of Loss and Love
By Anna Whiston-Donaldson

OVERVIEW: In Rare Bird, Anna Whiston-Donaldson unfolds a mother's story of loss that leads, in time, to enduring hope. With this unforgettable account of a family's love and longing, Anna will draw you deeper into a divine goodness that keeps us-beyond all earthly circumstances―safe.

AUTHOR: Anna Whiston-Donaldson is a popular blogger at An Inch of Gray. A graduate of Wake Forest university, she taught high-school English for six years before becoming a full-time mom and writer. She lives with her husband, Tim, and daughter, Margaret, in suburban Washington, DC.

MY REVIEW: This was a difficult book for me to read and review. I have had a hard time reading it because it is so sad. I am finding it difficult to review because of mixed emotions. Anna is a splendid writer and her story needed to be told and needs to be read. But it is a story of loss and that makes it difficult to read. However, the book is also filled with hope and love and we desperately need that. I recommend this book and agree with author Gretchen Rubin, Rare Bird is "Profound, tender, honest―and utterly unforgettable."

Rare Bird is the story of how twelve-year-old  Jack was swept away in a freak neighborhood flood. His parents and younger sister are left to wrestle with the awful questions: How did God let this happen? How can we ever be happy again? They each fall into the abyss of grief in different ways. And in the days and months to come, they each find their faltering way toward peace.

Glennon Doyle Melton, founder of Momastery.com. called the book "A masterpiece of hope, love, and the resilience and ferocity of the human spirit." If someone you know is struggling with the loss of a loved one, I recommend you put a copy of this book in their hands.

(I received this book from Blogging For Books in exchange for a fair and honest review.)

TABLES INTHE WILDERNESS

Thursday, October 02, 2014


TABLES IN THE WILDERNESS
A memoir of God Found, Lost, and Found Again
By Preston Yancey

OVERVIEW: In Tables in the Wilderness, Preston Yancey arrived at Baylor University in the autumn of 2008 with his life figured out. Then God slowly allowed Preston's secure world to fall apart until every piece of what he thought was true was lost: his church, his life of study, his political leanings, his girlfriend, his best friend...and his God. It was the loss of God in the midst of all the godly things that changed Preston forever. This is the story of God found, lost, and found again.

AUTHOR: Preston Yancy is a lifelong Texan-raised Southern Baptist who fell in love with reading saints, crossing himself, and high church spirituality. He now makes his home within the Anglican tradition. He is a writer, painter, baker and speaker. An alumnus of Baylor University, Preston completed a masters in theology from St. Andres university in Scotland before returning to the States. He and his wife, Hilary, currently live in Waco, Texas, where Hilary is a PhD candidate in philosophy at Baylor.

MY REVIEW: The sub-title of this book, A Memoir of God Found, Lost, and Found Again is what caught my attention. Having been a Senior Minister of the Church of Christ/Independent Christian Church for forty-seven years I have a great interest in Christians and their individual faith. In this book Preston tells his story. And an interesting story it is. Very interesting!

Preston's story is liberal. Mine is more conservative. Therefore, I had a lot to learn from him. And I did! Yes, I was uneasy when reading about his life at Baylor where he took mostly classes that I consider liberal. When in college I never had the kind of classes Preston chose because I had no interest in them. But I was interested in learning about the mindset of his professors and what he was taught. Again, his story interested me---but troubled me.

My review as far as the value of this book is concerned is not about my feelings about Preston's theology and worldview. I recommend this book to every Christian who has struggled with their own faith or has been concerned with the faith of a friend. I'm not sure you will find answers here for anything. But I believe you will be challenged to think about this subject more deeply than you have ever thought about it before. And I believe we all need to be challenged to think seriously about our faith, theology and worldview.

Preston Yancey is a splendid writer. His book is written on a high intellectual level. You will be caught up in his story. I received the book in the mail one afternoon and finished reading it the next afternoon. It's hard to put down.

(I received this book from Booklook Bloggers Book Review Bloggers Program for a fair and honest review.)

"WHAT TO DO WHEN YOUR CHURCH CHANGES" BY JOE MCKEEVER---MY RESPONSE

Tuesday, September 30, 2014


This post is my response to Joe McKeever's article posted on Face Book, "What To Do When Your Church Changes." I was amazed at the many comments he received and how many different views were expressed. These comments convinced me that we will never all reach agreement on this.

I am not against change. However, I am not in favor of ALL change.

Every church that isn't striving to be a mega-church is not dying.

There is a place for, and a need for smaller churches that have a close, Christian family feel. As they grow too large for that intimate feeling they can plant a new congregation and keep growing and going.

The church does not have to tear down or remodel their traditional building to make it look secular like a modern shopping mall in order to reach non-Christians.

The Scriptures instruct Christians to assemble on a regular basis to encourage one another. That assembly is for worship and so it is going to be a religious service and we should not try to hide that purpose by disguising it in secular garb and jargon.

The church should be evangelistic but the Sunday morning worship service is not the time for that or so much so that it needs to become more secular than religious. Let the church be the church on a daily basis and like the early church described in Acts 2 souls will be added.

McKeever states in his article that Rick Warren and Andy Stanley and the churches they are with will always be changing. And so they should. They were never traditional. We need churches out on the cutting edge reaching those who cannot be reached by the traditional church. But we do not need to "kill" a great traditional church by making changes it is not ready to make and doesn't need to make just in order to be for change.

We need to stop accusing Christians who oppose changes they consider radical and not needed as being against all change.

Change is the motto of our President and government. I am not against all changes in government but I am strongly against some changes. But that doesn't make me narrow minded and against change.

In a "nut shell" my convictions are that change is good---but not all change. A traditional church that is not dead should not be destroyed in order to rebuild it into a less religious environment so as to appeal to a secular society. I believe this so strongly that I believe that any preacher or group of elders that do this will give account for it on the day of judgment. If a person desires to be with a less traditional church they can join one or plant one of their own. But do not tear apart Christ's church, which is His Body.

THE SOUTHERN FOODIE'S GUIDE TO THE PIG

Friday, September 19, 2014


THE SOUTHERN FOODIE'S GUIDE TO THE PIG
A Culinary Tour of the South's Best Restaurants & the Recipes that Made Them Famous
By Chris Chamberlain

OVERVIEW: From chops to loins, belly to bacon, and every complementary side dish in between, Chris Chamberlain's culinary curiosity has once again yielded the ultimate field guide to the South's storied gastronomic landscape. In this book he explores the region's best sources of pork perfection. The Southern Foodie's Guide to the Pig dishes up both generations-old and newfangled recipes, weaving together a story of the South's longstanding love affair with pork and those well-loved accompaniments that complete the meal. State by state, you'll uncover the secrets of the region's best chefs, pit masters, and hog farmers. (Adapted from the back of the book.)

AUTHOR: Chris Chamberlain is a food and drink writer based out of Nashville, TN. He is a regular contributor to the Nashville Scene and Their "Bites" food blog as well as Nashville Lifestyles magazine. He is also the Southern correspondent for FoodRepublic.com, a national website dedicated to "Drinking, Eating, and Living the Way a Man Should." He has written about Southern food and drink for local Palate, Relish, Taste of the South, Julep, the Bourbon Review, the Southern Foodways Alliance's Gravy newsletter, and as a kitchen gadget reviewer at www.geardiary.com.

MY REVIEW: Wow! Wow! Wow! Yes, I realize this may not be the most mature way to begin a review. But I have really been impressed with this book. I like it a lot. My first Wow was when I opened it and thumbed through it looking at the great pictures. My second Wow was when I looked at the table of contents. And my loudest Wow came when I started reading the recipes. When the book came in the mail and I took it out of the box, I said to my wife, "This is my kind of book."

Part of the long title, sub-title I guess, is: How To Select, Prepare, Cook, And Enjoy Everything But the Oink. Does it actually do all of that? You know, I think it does. I really do.

I haven't tried any of the recipes yet but I know the one I am going to try first. It's Chicken Fried Pork Chops From Delta Bistro. If it is half as good as it looks in the pictureWOW!

If you don't like pork, don't buy this book. But if you do this is the book for you because that's what it is all aboutPORK.

(I received this book from Book Look Bloggers in exchange for a fair and honest review.)

SOMEWHERE SAFE WITH SOMEBODY GOOD

Tuesday, September 16, 2014


Somewhere Safe With Somebody Good is the title of Jan Karon's new book.

After a nine--year absence from publishing, Jan is revisiting the iconic community of Mitford, North Carolina. Fans are eager to be brought up to date with changes in the sleepy mountain village.

The title of the book is what caught my attention.

I immediately thought to myself, "Yes, that's what everybody wants. Is to be somewhere safe with somebody good."

It's a rare, overcast morning here in the Phoenix area. Rain is moving in. A tropical storm off the coast is pushing rain into the valley.

My thoughts turn to autumn and cooler weather, the fireplace and a good book.

My mind is also filled with thoughts of life in general.

Life is marching on. Relatives were here for a few days and have now gone home. We won't see them again for several months. Some of us are elderly and won't be around too long. All my brothers and sisters are gone and I am the last man standing on that side of the family.

I get lonely at times but I am never alone. God is always present.

I receive great comfort from having my wife and children with me. I think of them when I think of Jan's book title, Somewhere Safe With Somebody Good.

But even above and beyond them is the feeling I get from knowing God is with me.

He gives real meaning to the thought: SOMEWHERE SAFE WITH SOMEBODY GOOD!

MONDAY MORNING MONSOON MADNESS

Monday, September 08, 2014



The greater Phoenix area was hit by a monster today.

History was recorded.

A summer monsoon moved in along with the remnants of a hurricane.

Freeways were closed. Streets were flooded. Schools were closed. Many stayed home from work.

Two dozen cars were stalled, flooded and floating around in just one place on a freeway.

I woke up at 2:45 with wind and rain beating against our bedroom windows.

Charlotte and I both stirred, grunted, touched, rolled over and went back to sleep.

Around 7:00 we walked into the kitchen and looked outside.

The pool was full. The patio and yard were flooded. The weather people on television were talking like politicians. We were making history.

This is the most rain EVER in such a short period of time.

The rain has stopped----for now. The sun is shining.

We needed the rain. We just didn't need this much at one time.

Things are really going to bloom out and be beautiful now.

Weeds? Oh yes, there will be weeds----lots of them.

I'll slowly but surely kill them.

I'm thankful to God for the rain, sun and the beauty that follows.

A SUMMER SUNDAY IN SCOTTSDALE


We began with "What a Friend We Have in Jesus" and then we went on to "We Will Glorify," "Jesus, What a Friend for Sinners," "Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus," "Great Is Thy Faithfulness," and "You are My All In All."

All songs praising Jesus. Songs that I know well and love.

The powerful, encouraging message directly from the Scriptures was about listening to Jesus.

The service closed with communion.

I walked out into the morning sun feeling energized, refreshed and closer to God.

Lunch with two of my favorite women was an Italian Beef sandwich with sweet peppers.

Instead of jumping on the freeway to head home I said, "I'm not going that way today we have a tank full of gas and we are not in a hurry." We slowly meandered through a beautiful neighborhood. Charlotte said, "This is a nice drive." We didn't get home nearly as soon as we would have if we had gone on the freeway but we were more relaxed and in good spirit.

We watched some of the Diamondbacks/Dodgers game. The DBacks lost----again. We laughed and agreed, the Diamondbacks can't pitch and they can't hit.

For dinner Charlotte served up some of the best pancakes I have ever had along with bacon and coffee.

As I pulled the covers up under my chin I thanked God for many things.

This was a good day. It's been a good summer.

God is always good!